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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A meltdown paralyzes the Florida House




Republicans have 76 of the 120 votes in the state House, but they resorted to a procedural tactic Friday reminiscent of the Johnnie Byrd era to prevent Democrats from prolonging debate on a bill that tweaks FCAT standards in schools. The GOP maneuver, which quickly backfired, blocked consideration of a proposal by Republican Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, that included broader FCAT reforms.

The move by Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, was to call the previous question, which limited debate to three minutes per side and denied Democrats a forum to call once again for FCAT reforms. Minority Leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, rose and said: "I don't know why we have to resort to unbecoming procedural rules to stop a full and fair debate ... if this is what this House has come to, it's something you all should be ashamed of, and I mean that."

A few minutes later, Gelber demanded that every bill on Friday's calendar be read in its entirety, an even more obscure and rarely employed procedure.

To defeat that motion required a two-thirds vote, but it barely fell short by a 70-41 margin. Sergeants-at-arms secured the chamber and House Speaker Marco Rubio ordered absent members rounded up and extra reading clerks brought in. "I hope you guys like condominium law," Rubio cracked, as a young clerk began reading a lengthy condo bill.

The meltdown threatened to prevent Jewish lawmakers from making afternoon flights to get home by sundown Friday, when Passover observances begin.

As the clerk read the bill, lawmakers clumped together in the middle of the floor, plotting strategic moves. After a few minutes, Rubio slammed the gavel. "I'd ask you respect the work this young man is trying to do," he said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:52am]


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